Student Well-Being Video

‘I Wished I Could Help Tyre’: Memphis 2nd Graders Use Art, Expression to Foster Change

By Jaclyn Borowski — February 22, 2023 3:25
PKAM5465.00 02 53 13.Still004 BS

When the video of Tyre Nichols’ beating at the hands of Memphis police was released on Friday, Jan. 27, some students in Melissa Collins’ 2nd grade class had questions.

Go home this weekend and talk to your parents, she told them. Over the course of that weekend, she, too, was talking to those parents and families to get a sense of how they were doing and of what her students had learned about the tragedy.

When her students returned to class on Monday, Collins was ready to talk with them, and to help them find an outlet for their questions and concerns. They told her they wanted to draw as a way of expressing their feelings.

Taking her lead from the 2nd graders, Collins’ continued to incorporate art and conversation into her lessons. She wanted to help her class understand who Tyre Nichols was as a person, that he was more than what was captured in the brutal video that ignited protests across the nation.

In the weeks since, her students have learned about peace, about different forms of artistic expression, about the impact they can have, and the weight their voices can carry.

In one lesson, they illustrated the change they’d like to see in the world.

Though her students are only in 2nd grade, Collins, the 2023 Tennessee Teacher of the Year, believes it’s her duty to have these difficult conversations with them and to let her classroom act as a safe space where they can process all that’s happening in the world around them.

Here, she and her students reflect on those lessons.

See Also

An 8th grader works on a class project at Paw Paw Middle School on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, in Paw Paw, Michigan. The students were asked to write a word that was important to them and their work in the classroom. They then added the words to a poster to serve as a class "contract." The district has upped its social-emotional curriculum during the pandemic, as more students struggle. That is common nationwide. A recent AP-NORC/MTV poll found that nearly half of U.S. teens said the pandemic has made it harder to be happy and maintain their mental health.
An 8th grader works on a class project at Paw Paw Middle School on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, in Paw Paw, Michigan. The students were asked to write a word that was important to them and their work in the classroom. They then added the words to a poster to serve as a class "contract." The district has upped its social-emotional curriculum during the pandemic, as more students struggle. That is common nationwide. A recent AP-NORC/MTV poll found that nearly half of U.S. teens said the pandemic has made it harder to be happy and maintain their mental health.
Martha Irvine/AP

Jaclyn Borowski is the director of photography and videography for Education Week.

Coverage of whole-child approaches to learning is supported in part by a grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, at www.chanzuckerberg.com. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.

Video

Curriculum Video A Collaborative Teaching Model to Mimic Even When There's No Eclipse
This teaching model brings together educators across grades and subjects to create popular lessons for all students during major events.
3:25
04112014 eclipse thumbnail BS
Sam Mallon
Teaching Profession Video ‘Teachers Make All Other Professions Possible’: This Educator Shares Her Why
An Arkansas educator offers a message on overcoming the hard days—and focusing on the why.
1 min read
Curriculum Video Why This Educator Uses Aliens to Teach Media Literacy
Media literacy is crucial for a generation that does everything on their phones. A look at how teachers can address the topic.
3:40
Teaching Video The National Teacher of the Year's Advice for Building 'a Legacy of Strong Teachers'
This year's National Teacher of the Year has a message for educators on finding joy and creating a legacy of strong teachers.